Performer: David Narayan
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Billed as a mind-reading show, The Psychic Project initially ran for just an hour. In its newest iteration at The Vaults in London it probably still lasts an hour, but with a 20-minute delay to proceedings and then an interval coming in after only 30 minutes, the show extends over two hours.
Perhaps it is a good night for the bar – our host reappears in the interval to remind us that the bar is open – but these delays do try the patience of the audience. It would be easy to forgive the late start and the unnecessary interval if the mind-reading tricks by David Narayan were exceptional. But for the main, the tricks are unremarkable and a few of them don’t work at all.
Narayan performs these tricks while giving us a history of the experiments used by the American Government in the Cold War of the 1970s. Believing that the Russians were using psychics in order to steal secrets, the Americans started their own psychic project, which suggested that everyone was capable of harnessing these powers. But Narayan’s retelling of this period with the help of photos and audio files is muddled, and at times the audience isn’t quite sure what it’s listening to and those sat at the back can’t see everything.
The tricks are also muddled too, and appear to depend upon sleight of hand rather than any psychic powers. Volunteers from the audience are asked to guess the next symbol on a card, or to divine the contents of a box. When a volunteer believes that a pencil-sharpener is in the box, Narayan urges him to change his mind until he ‘predicts’ correctly. Other tricks seem suspect, too, especially when Narayan dips into his pockets.
After the interval, a technical problem with the projections adds even more minutes to this drawn-out show, and for a few seconds it seems that Narayan is in danger of losing the audience, who begin chattering and then groaning when another trick fails to work. To give him credit, Narayan doesn’t panic, and his last trick, although recently performed on Britain’s Got Talent and on a grander scale, does have us on the edges of our seats. But it’s been a long wait.
It is a shame that these problems all occurred on press night, and hopefully other evenings will run more smoothly. Removing the interval will really help this show retain its momentum. Narayan is not a cheat but at the end of the night some of the audience felt cheated.
Runs until 22 June 2019 | Image: Richard Merritt